Prv. 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Ps. 128; 1 Thess. 5:1-6; Mt. 25:14-30
As our liturgical year draws to a close, our readings focus us more and more on being prepared for the coming of Jesus. Holy Mother Church celebrates this with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, which we will celebrate next Sunday. Our entire liturgical year culminates on the important reality that Jesus Christ is our King, and our readings encourage us to be prepared for the day of his arrival. We have heard this in a variety of parables that Jesus gives, particularly the parable of the ten virgins, and even today’s parable of the talents. But, before we explore the meaning of the parable of the talents, I want to spend a few moments reflecting on the value of a worthy wife.
The Book of Proverbs is part of a collection of Old Testament books known as wisdom literature. These books include Job, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Sirach, and Proverbs. Biblical wisdom literature concentrates on daily human experience and how life is to be lived. Today’s first reading taken from the Book of Proverbs describes the qualities of a worthy wife: “Her value is far beyond pearls…She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.” The passage goes on to say, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come.” I found this part of the passage to be particularly significant for today. What does it mean to laugh at the days to come? It means she is prepared. She has everything she needs for herself and her household. Everything is in order. She does not worry about tomorrow, because whatever happens, she is ready. Now, I am almost 100% positive that every married woman here has everything in order. And so I want to encourage all the husbands to make sure she knows how cherished she is for being the wife she is.
The Book of Proverbs speaks of how well prepared a worthy wife is, but as St. Paul speaks to the Thessalonians he encourages them also to be prepared. He says, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.” But, he also reminds them they are children of the light and of the day. In other words, they walk in the light of Christ. So, he encourages them to stay sober and alert so as not to allow the darkness to overcome them. Once again, be prepared.
All this talk about preparation, but how are we to be prepared? If the Book of Wisdom seeks to provide advice for how to live, and St. Paul is encouraging us to stay sober and alert, what is Jesus telling us to do? In today’s gospel, Jesus uses an analogy to describe how we are to live. As Americans we like to be busy. We are always trying to figure out what to do. That is because we are people of action and this gospel passage should resonate well for many of us.
Jesus uses the analogy of a business transaction between a master and his servants. The master is going on a journey and entrusts his servants with his possessions. Jesus uses the word “talent” to describe the value of these possessions. A talent was worth 6000 Denarii. A Denarius was a silver coin weighing 60 grains, which is a little over a tenth of an ounce. At today’s prices, one talent would be worth nearly $18,000. So, these are large amounts of money being entrusted. Now the servants have a decision to make. What will they do with the money that has been entrusted to them? The first two engage in trade and double their master’s money, but the last servant buries the money. When the master returns, he asks them to settle up. The first two tell him they have doubled his money—in other words, their business of trade helped to grow his fortune. This is an analogy for the kingdom of heaven. The more the disciples engage in the business of preaching and evangelizing, the more people are won for the kingdom. Because they were faithful in small matters, the master rewards those servants by giving them great responsibilities. This is an analogy for the Christian life. If the talents are like God’s grace, then the more we cooperate with God’s grace in faith, the more grace God will give to us. God always gives each of us enough grace, but how are we using God’s gift of grace?
The final servant in the parable does nothing with the master’s talent. He buries it in a field and when he had to settle his account, he simply digs it up and gives it back. This is an example of one who does not put God’s grace into action. That would be like an all star quarterback refusing to play for the team. He has all the talent, but no initiative. In a word, he has little faith. Jesus tells us the master takes the talent from this servant and gives it to the one who has ten. In other words, God’s gifts are never lost, they are simply given to those who will put them to good use in the kingdom.
So, what about us? How are we using the gifts God has entrusted to us? Are we putting them to good use for the sake of the kingdom or are we hiding them away? The Lord blesses those who keep his commandments down to the thousandth generation. We do well to cooperate with his grace and help grow the kingdom. This starts here in our local church and extends to the world. So, may our celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass today be a reminder of the wonderful graces God has entrusted to us, and may the communion we share renew us in our resolve to faithfully carry out the Lord’s command in everything we do.